How to grow cucumbers
Who doesn’t love a crisp, delicious cucumber on a hot day? But who likes to buy them from the store, where you have to scrape off the wax and dig through piles of bruised, flavorless nasties?
If the thought of growing your own cucumbers intimidates you, stop worrying; it’s easy. Heck, it’s not even that difficult to make your own pickles from your cucumbers.
Growing bounteous cucumbers requires the proper attention to soil, nurturing and harvesting. So get to it as soon as the danger of frost is pretty much gone.
Cucumbers do well in soil that has been added to with organic matter such as manure and compost. You don’t need to add sand or anything fancy, just mix a goodly amount of your compost in to about a depth of eight inches.
After your soil is mixed, go ahead and make a mound or a ridge that is about four inches wide. If you go with a mound, it should be about two feet across. With your planting area ready, plant your cucumber seeds to a depth of about an inch and a half. Pack fully decomposed compost dirt over the top.
Once you’ve planted the seeds, keep the ground moist until a few days after sprouts appear. When your small plants are a few inches tall, stop watering for a day or two. This will encourage your plants’ roots to delve deeply into the soil and get strong.
Some of the things to watch out for when growing cucumbers are slugs, birds and insects. Slugs can be dealt with by using slug bait or setting out a shallow dish of beer. Birds can be repelled with simple bird netting that is available at nearly any garden center. Other insects should be watched for; you may be able to simply deal with them by hand. If not, use acidic water and spray the plants. This shouldn’t be toxic water, but should be water with a very low pH.
As your plants grow, you will need to decide whether you want them to spread across the ground or climb. Climbing cucumbers are easier to harvest. Thus, I recommend erecting a trellis of some kind, or planting cukes near a fence. Cucumber plants, like all squash and gherkin plants, send out tendrils that wrap around just about anything. They also spread like mad!
If you nourished your soil well with manure or compost before planting, you won’t need to fertilizer your cucumbers while they grow. You will, however, need to keep them well watered, as cucumber plants need water to put out fruit. Some people say that you should keep the ground moist, but this will actually promote weak roots. So water well every three days or so, even in hot climates. You want your soil to get moist to about eight inches down.
Cucumber plants are notorious for hiding their bounty. So when it’s time to harvest cucumbers, make thorough searches through the foliage. What works for me is to search each tentacle that the cucumber plant has put out, starting from where it begins at the plant.
As you harvest ripe cucumbers, your plants will produce more and more delicious veggies, so keep on top of it. You also want to be sure and harvest them at the right time. This time varies, depending on the type of cucumber you have. Just don’t let them get too thick or long, as the flavor will be deadened.
In conclusion, you want to eat or use your cucumbers soon after harvesting them. So plan for salads every day, or make pickles. Pickles are simple; all you need is some whey, dill, mustard seed and water. For pickle recipes, check online or Google ‘Nourishing Traditions.’
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